Children spend 13 years of the most important times of their lives going to school and learning the education that we think fits in order to provide them with a bright and promising future. I went through this system myself and now as an adult, there are many things that I can see wrong with the way that we are taught, and what is expected from us. None of which is the fault of the teachers who work year in and year out to personally provide us with this information, but more or less the overall thought and ideas behind the system as a whole.
Lets start first with teachers; they are the ones who not only teach us the material guided down to them, but they also grade everything we do. Most try to connect with each student on a more personal level in order to help them even more, and yet, when something goes wrong with their kids academics, they’re the ones to blame. I have teachers in my family, some of which I would even help grade papers and go to school with for a day to see them in action. They work in a system with limited options of their own, yes, but they have feelings and lives just like the rest of us and they have a goals as well, goals to make sure every child that comes into their classroom succeeds. The saying “teachers are over worked and under paid” is so unbelievably true. Just think about it, without your teachers, you wouldn’t be the person you are today, you wouldn’t have the drive to go to college and to actually pursue the dreams that you have. These are people who are dedicating their lives to make the lives of your children’s future better. Before we continue I want to clarify that the rest of this article is not in reference to teachers, but the education system as a whole, and ways that can improve it in today’s era.
Most elementary schools and high schools start anywhere from 7-9 a.m. which although for most adults that is not an early time, but for our brains it is. Studies have shown over and over again that our brain does not fully start to process information until around 10:00 a.m. so realistically, everything that we learn from 7-10 is just pieces of information that float around our brain aimlessly. But then I started thinking a little bit deeper into this and I began to wonder, the time frame that is set for schooling, as well as after school activities is set more for the schedule of the parents who would have a 9-5 job. They would have enough time to get their kids to school before having to head into work, and once they were done with work they could pick them up from practice and everything work out perfectly… for them. If we want our kids to fully succeed and become the future of the world, why not listen to the studies, which were done by students themselves, and set up the school day to be more fitting and more beneficial for everyone involved?
While we’re on the topic of how time can affect our learning, let’s break the day down a little bit more. Your child goes to school around 7:00-7:30 a.m., they then go to one or two classes and then they have lunch/recess before attending the last 4-5 classes of the day. So in an 8-hour school day, they only get 30 minutes to both eat, and prepare their minds to learn the next several subjects. Although I lived this, thinking about it, I cannot help but laugh because this is a lot to expect from children and in my mind, all I can picture is robots. In a standard 8-hour school day, they should be allowed several smaller breaks just to bring them back to reality, to help them focus on the work that is in front of them. Aside from this, after being in school and learning for 8 hours, they are then expected to go home and spend the rest of their day doing homework. I remember sometimes I had 2-3 hours of homework a night and that was 6-7 years ago. Now my niece who is in Jr. High School tells me that she has sometimes up to 5 hours of homework a night. So as if 8 hours in a classroom wasn’t enough, she now has to spend her free time, the time she has to still be a kid, studying even more? This is because the system wants you to cram as much material into them as possible, so that they look good when the test results come back. Which brings me to my next topic…
Every child is an individual with different lives, different thoughts, different strengths, different needs, and even different dreams. But in the school systems that exist today, none of this really matters at the end of the day. While you are in school, you are not necessarily an individual but instead you’re categorized as an age or as a grade. There is no creative individual thinking or individual thinking really at all. Everything has to fit to what the system wants from you, but expects from your teachers. Thus we introduce standardized tests, the tests that ultimately determine your future for you. Which college you will go to, if you are smart enough to go to the next grade, even what your ranking is in your overall class. That’s what we’ve become? A ranking system as to which children are “smarter” than the others, and that is supposed to determine our future? I was always a very smart student, I got good grades, and although I wasn’t a straight “A” student, I had my priorities in line. I knew even then that getting an “A” on a paper didn’t really matter, but what did matter was my score on the standardized tests, or even tests in general. But you see, with me, for some reason tests scared me, I knew the material but when the test was in front of me I would freeze up and draw a blank. So because of this, I wasn’t good enough to attend certain universities, or I wasn’t seen as a prestigious student who won academic awards over and over again. I knew that I was smart, and I knew that I was more knowledgeable than some who received these awards, but to the school system that didn’t matter, because a timed test is the ultimate way to determine smartness right?
Now that I am living in Europe, I am able to see the value of learning languages. Although many different countries that all have different languages don’t surround America, why shouldn’t we learn them? I wasn’t even offered the chance to learn a language until the 8th grade, and even then I had to have specific grades in order to take the class. The only languages offered were Spanish, French, and German. While these three languages are the most commonly used, why should we be limited to exploring the cultures of the world around us? And why do we have to wait until were 13 to do so? I’m not comparing Europe to America because they are vastly different in everyway, but I can see children who are 4 years old speaking three or four different languages and I become amazed. When we’re younger, it is a lot easier for us to pick up things, especially languages. So why not in social studies class when you’re teaching students about the different countries, you teach them some of the language as well? Open our eyes to more choices than just those three and allow us to make the decision as to which one, or more, we want to continue studying? Broaden our horizons and open our minds to endless opportunities!
This question is the one I want you all to really think about. Do you really think that school, especially high school, prepares you for life? Life in every aspect I mean, not just educationally but basic common sense of daily life. You graduate at 17 or 18 and at that point you are legally considered an adult, you have to pay taxes, manage your bank account, move out on your own and take on the world. But none of this is things you know how to do. You can do extensive math that only mathematicians would ever use, but you are unaware of how to balance a checkbook, save money, or even cook for yourself. You are aware of how to act in the four walls of the classroom but you have no social experience with interaction in the outside world. The system is so focused on turning us into machines to produce numbers and grades that they forget to teach how to be basic human beings. They don’t take into consideration that not everyone, upon graduation, goes to college. It’s a new era, the millennial era, and we’re much different from those before us. The system may prepare us for life educationally to a point, but they don’t prepare us realistically.
In 150 years, the education has not changed. Everything else surrounding us has, but the most important thing, the thing claiming to prepare us for the future, is doing nothing but preparing us for the past. We’re not the same society as the one who was around when education was invented; we don’t have the same dreams and goals for our lives as they did. We are all individuals and young ones at that. It is time to stop putting all of our focus on grades and tests and to start enjoying the life around us. Allowing the children to be children, and providing them with the information that they actually NEED in order to survive in this world. Not adding stress on them and making them make important decisions that ultimately they don’t know how to make or that they don’t really want to make. Expecting them to be “normal” and to go to college because that’s what you do. Most of the problem with children these days is not themselves, it’s the pressure that the rest of the world puts on them to be someone that they’re not.
I’m interested in your thoughts on this. Do you think that the education system needs to be altered? Do you think what is expected of children is normal/a good thing? If you disagree with me, why?